After nearly 15 years of construction, Poseidon Water started turning sea water into drinking water at its desalination plant in Carlsbad on Monday, and Huntington Beach may be the next Southern California city to get an infinite water supply.
The Huntington Beach Desalination Project is a facility currently in late-stage development that will be capable of producing 50-million gallons of water per day once it is operational. The new desalination plant will be located next to the AES Huntington Beach Power Station and is scheduled to be up and running by 2018.
The lessons learned in Carlsbad will be applied to Huntington Beach, hopefully resulting in lower capital costs and faster building times for the next desalination plant.
Environmentalists and surfers have voiced their concerns about the desalination plant’s carbon emissions and possible effects on coastal marine life, however. The local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is on the crest of the wave against the Huntington Beach Desalination Project, as was Surfrider’s San Diego chapter against Poseidon’s Carlsbad desalination plant.
While the reverse osmosis process used by Poseidon’s proposed facility does not directly emit greenhouse gases, the construction process and the electrical energy it will need to remove salt from sea water does. In response, Poseidon Water pledged in November to completely offset the facility’s carbon footprint by purchasing Climate Reserve Tonnes and Renewable Energy Credits and by investing in reforestation projects that sequester carbon gases.
On the charge of endangering marine life and creating a “dead zone” off Huntington Beach, Poseidon Water cited the project’s approval by the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, which found that the proposed plant’s intake pipes would consume 0.78 pounds of fish per day, less than 25 percent of the daily diet of a single brown pelican.
Multiple state and local regulatory agencies have already approved the project on environmental grounds, and, if the success of the Carlsbad project is any indication, the environmental lobby will likely not be successful in stopping the Huntington Beach Desalination Project from going forward.
Local government, for its part, is backing the project all the way. An Orange County Grand Jury report released last year likened a sustainable and water supply for Orange County to an endangered species and called desalination the only way to ensure its future.
The report outlined the current and potential scale of the water shortage facing Orange County and called for expediting the permitting process to allow Poseidon Water to start construction on the Huntington Beach Desalination Project as soon as possible.
About the increased costs of water provided by desalination methods, the Grand Jury had this quip: “The monthly rate increase is about the same as the cost of a Starbuck Venti, a small price to pay for a more secure water source.”
About the opposition from surfers and environmentalists, the Grand Jury was blunter: “The environmentalists have had their say and have been reasonably accommodated.”
Actually building the plant is the only remaining hurdle for Orange County to get its own supply of freshwater from the ocean. If all goes as planned, he Huntington Beach Desalination Project is set to be completed within the next 3 years.
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(all data current as of 5/29/2017)
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